Cover of Interview with Nat Raum from fifth wheel press

Interview with Nat Raum from fifth wheel press

Cue ‘Pyre’ by Son Lux. Enter Nat Raum, the editor-in-chief of the queer literature & art space, fifth wheel press. They publish art zines, chapbooks, and anthologies while also considering shorter works like poems, interviews, reviews & more for their blog. They want to read work that takes risks and are dedicated to helping each author promote their work after it’s published. One of the many reasons we love fifth wheel press and the indie publishing scene in general. No bullshit. Honest work. Just how Nat Raum likes it.

Could you tell us a bit about the history of your press? (what you do, how you got started, what your goals are)

fifth wheel press began in 2019 as a photography press for lens-based artists of marginalized gender identities. As my own practice began evolving to incorporate writing and my sense of gender changed, we shifted gears in 2021 to become a dedicated queer literature and art publishing space. We now publish art zines, chapbooks, and anthologies, as well as maintain a regular blog.

What is your press’s vibe in six words or less?

very gay lit & art space

What is the process of publishing a book like for your press? From the first read-through and acceptance, through publication and promotion.

We open submissions once a year and read everything at the end of the period. We extend an offer of publication to accepted titles that includes 50% profit sharing on all sales of the book, physical and digital. After the author accepts, we work out a contract and the process begins. I'm also a designer, so I like to establish the visual vibe of the book with the author early on. This is super helpful with promotion, which we do a lot of on social media. We also have a few local stockists who carry some of our titles. All said and done, the full process takes 2-3 months with each author, usually split up based on publication dates (we publish titles from February-October). I'm also working to implement some new procedures for our 2023 publication cycle, including a preliminary survey to determine what level of publisher involvement the author is seeking. We hope to accommodate all of our authors, and recognize that some people want different things out of the publication process than others. Our plan in 2023 is to offer our authors interviews on our blog, line-by-line feedback on the manuscript, and marketing consultations for their personal book marketing efforts (we already market the books post-release, but we know some authors like to do so as well). That's something we've already done as requested, but we want to explicitly make authors aware that this is something we can do, if they want. It's really important to me that each author's publishing process is tailored to help them benefit personally from the publishing process beyond just having a book out in the world.

What kind of books are you looking for? Do you follow the market, wait for anything good, or have a particular niche in mind when you’re reading through submissions?

I really don't follow the market at all; in fact, I'm especially interested in hybrid and experimental work that may draw on tradition in some ways, but isn't traditional. I'm definitely interested in work that takes risks. I'm also a sucker for vivid, hypersensory imagery; I love for writing to be tangible. Finally, I'm always especially drawn to titles that explore some aspect of queer experience, whether quietly or loudly queer. Personal, honest work is a big yes in my book.

How many pages into a manuscript do you get before leaning one way or the other on accepting it?

Since we read for chapbooks and art publications only right now, I do tend to read the whole thing. I think I owe it that much on my first read-through.

Are there any red flags you’ve found in writer’s submissions that other writers might want to avoid?

It doesn't happen often, but it sucks as a queer editor to get hit with a "Dear Sir/Madam" in the salutation of a cover letter. A bit of basic research into who you're writing to goes a very long way. "Dear editor" is fine if you can't find specifics.

Do you have any recent books you’ve published that you’d like to show some love for?

We recently published a hybrid artist monograph by Kelli Fox titled 'in abundance and in absence." It's a beautiful hardcover book full of stunning film photographs and honest, relatable prose poetry. I think it's a really great way for folks interested in writing to get an idea of what we do on the art side of the press!

Is there any aspects of your submissions process that writers consistently miss or do wrong that they should pay more attention to?

For us specifically, we ask that writers self-identify in our cover letter, even vaguely, to ensure we're reading submissions that align with our mission to be a dedicated queer space. I'd like to clarify that we're never mad that people forget; we know there's a variety of reasons why you might miss that. We just also use Submittable, which we all know has a highly imperfect messaging system, and it's difficult to follow up with people and receive timely responses because of this. Finally, on this note, we promise you're queer enough for us! And "I'm still figuring it out" is a totally valid thing to write, as well.

If you could add one question to this interview, what would it be, and how would you answer it?

My one professor recently reminded me of the concept of "entrance music," so I'd ask what my entrance music would be. You know, the song that plays when you enter the room. The answer would be "Pyre" by Son Lux.

View fifth wheel press on Chill Subs

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fifth wheel press

"An independent community-focused publisher of art and writing by queer, trans, and gender non-conforming creatives."
Response time
4-6 weeks
Twitter followers
Submission guidelines